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Anna Marie Reynosa admitted she was distracted by her cellphone on the night she crashed into 20-year-old motorcyclist Charla Wilkins, court records said.
[Would you be willing to charge criminally negligent homicide if texting was the sole reason for the accident? Explain.]
A person acts with criminal negligence, or is criminally negligent, with respect to the result of his conduct when he ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor's standpoint.
The result of a vehicular accident caused by texting while driving could be the death or serious injury of another person.
So, has society reached the point where any driver ought to perceive that risk as substantial and unjustifiable? Does it matter whether the accident occurred in a place where the texting was actually a violation of law? Does it matter whether the communication was serious or merely chatter?
So, will you indict when the admission is changing the station on a radio? How about taking a drink from their coffee during the morning commute? Wait, the person who is distracted by looking at an attractive pedistrian? When are you just criminalizing tragic accidents all in the name of knowing better than everyone else?
Isn't there a reason for all those torts dealing with negligent conduct?
I don't think changing the station, taking a drink of coffee or looking at a pedestrian is even close to texting while driving.
Texting while driving is extremely dangerous. It requires much more attention to manipulate a phone, read a text and type a text, than it does to change the station or drink coffee.
There have been enough deaths from texting while driving that it should not be considered a "tragic accident" if a homicide results from texting while driving. I think a few decades back they used to say it was a "tragic accident" when a drunk driver killed someone.
Texting while driving is illegal in the vast majority of states because it is such a dangerous activity.
I would certainly seek an indictment for criminally negligent homicide in a texting while driving case given the appropriate facts.
How about when a woman puts on her makeup looking into the mirror the whole way to work while eating a breakfast taco?
Ironically, the worst offenders of cell phone usage while driving...are cops.
"Nanny" laws have unfortunately become the new fad.
Yes, lots of activities occur in a car that are a distraction from careful driving. We all get that, and that issue has been done to death on this forum.
The point of this discussion is to identify how society targets a particular activity for recognition as reflective of criminal negligence. Case law already shows us that certain driving activity has been recognized as criminally negligent: speeding, failing to keep a proper lookout, following too closely and failing to maintain a single lane of traffic, for example.
Those last examples are all traffic violations, reflected in codes that specify the wrongful activity. At what point, though, does an activity that is initially lawful become criminally negligent? Or, should criminal negligence only be limited to activity that has been socially defined through a law as wrongful?
As another example, our parents would frequently leave us in a car while running in to a store. Now, that same activity is viewed as dangerous. Society singled out that activity and elevated it as more serious that lots of other things. Same for seat belts -- as to the driver and passengers. And child safety seats.
As prosecutors, how do we know when such an activity is properly defined as criminally negligent?
And all class "c" misd. So what? Problem is for texting or what have you, when is it criminal? Take your "speeding" criminal negligence - person is driving 5 miles over on a freeway has accident and someone dies...you charging that? Most of the criminal negligent cases I have seen involve egregious things - drag racing at high speeds or outrageously high speeds for the conditions, driving for over 24 hours without sleep, etc. I guess if I had evidence the driver had been texting for a long period up until the accident I "might" consider it.
OK, so under some specific circumstances, texting while driving might rise to the level of criminal negligence. Repetition. At high speeds. On a busy highway.
Criminal negligence has always been a sort of socially acceptable/unacceptable behavioral continuum. We just seem to resist adding behaviors that we do ourselves, perhaps because we would then have to admit we are ourselves engaging in dangerous, potentially criminal behavior.
The use of cell phones, whether for calling or texting, is a new in-car behavior that deserves examination and consideration for criminal negligence. And, if society continues to move toward recognizing it as socially unacceptable risky behavior, it might well eventually rise to reckless behavior.
This, in my opinion, is the single greatest impediment to the passage of any sensible legislation on this topic... or, for that matter, to any predictable enforcement of any eventual law restricting this conduct. It's like prohibition for the 21st century... we've all done it or seen it done, and don't want our behavior to be criminalized. But consider: speeding laws are restrictions that most people probably support in the abstract, yet individually feel that they should be able to skirt as needed. We would all like to be able to drive as fast as we think is appropriate; but we recognize that for society to work (driving society, anyway) we can't all set our own speed limits, and we have to agree to adhere to a common denominator for safety.
Here's how I look at the texting issue (we'll just keep ignoring that plain, garden-variety TALKING on your cell phone while driving has already been shown time and time again to be a serious distraction for most drivers, hands-free device or not): texting while driving is in fact a horrible idea. Like many things that most, if not all, of us do, we can probably agree in the abstract that it is risky. Whether we think WE ourselves are good enough drivers to handle it or not, do we trust all the other drivers on the road to keep their cars in their lanes while they paw at their smartphones? If our answer is "no," then clearly it's at least negligent behavior.
Think about what texting actually requires a driver to do - to take his eyes off the road for seconds at a time, focus on an object that's maybe a foot away, read and/or interpret what's on the screen, usually involving a very small font or an image of some sort, and try to type out a reply message. All of this (typically) while looking downward.
Have you noticed that you can always spot people who are typing / playing on their cell phones in public, just like you can tell when people are reading? Our eyelids partially close when we look down. We have NO ability to see what is front of us for that time period. We fool ourselves into thinking that we can, but that's just our brains merging the before- and after-images. 99% of the time it works just fine, because random objects don't suddenly move or appear when we're doing this. But the reality is we are not able to see in front of us while looking downward.
What if, in your town, people began playing a game in which the object was to close their eyes for a few seconds at a time while driving? Maybe one second, maybe three... totally up to the player. Would you charge one of them when it came out that the wreck had occurred due to playing the game?
What if, instead, the object was simply to look down at the floorboard, or their own laps for that period of time? The players' eyes aren't technically "closed," but for driving purposes, they are.
Take that behavior, and add in message interpretation and composition, plus the juggling of visual and tactile inputs I mentioned earlier. That's texting.
From today's hand downs:
"The court of appeals mistakes what conduct was alleged to constitute the gross deviation in this case. The gross deviation from the ordinary standard of care argued by the state in this case was not appellant's use of a cell phone, but rather that appellant made an unsafe lane change and failed to maintain a proper lookout, at least partly as a result of the distraction created by her use of the cell phone. The state was not required to present evidence of the dangers of using a cell phone while driving in order to carry its burden of proof, but such a use of a cell phone may be considered as a factor in determining whether a defendant grossly deviated from the ordinary standard of care. The question of whether appellant's conduct was a "gross deviation" is a question to be answered by the fact finder and here, a rational jury could conclude that it was."
Moving toward criminal negligence?
"Growing concern over the continued use of cellphones by drivers has some states reviewing laws against the practice and exploring stiffer fines and harsher penalties."
A Katy man was texting when his vehicle slammed into the back of an 18-wheeler in Navasota Tuesday, killing him on impact.
[Pretty compelling evidence about how texting is a different sort of distraction.]
Not disagreeing with anything posted here, but to spur on the discussion John started. Does the dialog started by the new "antitexting MADD style advocacy groups" go here for a look http://www.stoptextsstopwrecks.org/#facts Or the major ad campaigns from the states and feds go here http://www.distraction.gov/ and here http://www.txdot.gov/safety/distracted.htm Change what is reckless? Does the public education done on a mass scale actually change what citizens expect of each other and what the actual norm is, or is all this media blitz just a waste of time and money? Does it change our opinion of what is reckless? Could we use these public information campaigns to prove "intention disregard"?
I don't know that the campaigns themselves are evidence that would be admissible in court. However, the campaigns do serve to convince more people showing up on juries that such conduct satisfies the standard of criminal negligence or reckless.
We saw the same sorts of campaigns move public opinion on use of seat belts, smoking (especially in public) and littering (Don't Mess with Texas).
Of course, if you could prove a defendant received specific instruction in the danger of texting while driving, that might well move a case from criminal negligence to reckless. Doubtful it would establish intentional. Would be interesting, though, to show a jury that a defendant received specific warnings in class instruction, driving lessons, etc.
How is this any different than driving while texting after being expressly told it is very dangerous?
An epileptic man, whose doctor had repeatedly admonished not to drive because of the threat of seizures, was sentenced to three years in prison Friday for killing a man in a car crash on a scenic Marble Falls bridge in 2010.
Does this make sense to you?
One night in May 2011, Jason Gage, an Alexandria man driving on a road in the Dranesville community of Fairfax County, struck and killed a college student named Kyle Rowley.
Authorities later determined that Gage had probably opened a text message about the time of the crash. They charged him with reckless driving.
But when the case went to trial in a Fairfax County court last month, Judge Thomas E. Gallahue ordered the charge against Gage dropped, his texting notwithstanding.
About as much sense as arresting homeowners simply defending their "castles!"
Further evidence that texting demands excessive attention when performing divided-attention tasks?
Texting while smoking leads to 60 ft tumble off cliff:
Is texting a deadly weapon?
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